STEM Student Development
Student Development in the STEM Fields
Sara Dolan and Steven Driese, Associate Deans for Research
Dean Lyon’s article referenced the growing number of Baylor doctoral students in STEM fields. As we have now achieved R1 status, it is critical that we continue to provide all students opportunities consistent with R1-level graduate education.
STEM students are especially likely to be international students, and we can’t assume that all have the language skills needed to be successful during their graduate education, particularly when serving as Teaching Assistants. Further, the success of STEM students is highly dependent on their abilities to secure external research grants. We have developed two programs to foster success in these areas.
To support our international graduate students, we instituted English-speaking skills testing requirements, either via internationally recognized, standardized tests (i.e., TOEFL and IELTS), or individually-administered testing with the help of the Global Gateway Program (GGP). We also created a new course, GBL 5201 “Teaching in English for International Teaching Assistants,” and we formed a partnership with the Baylor Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic within the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. The didactic course, taught by Tanya Vernon from the GGP, enrolled 8 students in Fall, and though the course has been offered in previous semesters, this Fall was the first time it was required for students with below-threshold English speaking abilities. Our primary goal is to give Baylor graduate students the English language skills they need to be successful at Baylor, in the classroom, and beyond.
In Fall 2020, the Graduate School funded two doctoral-level Graduate Assistant positions to support all of our doctoral students across disciplines in their pursuit of research grants. Housed in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), these Grant Writing Specialists offer grant support spanning searching for funding opportunities to assisting with application preparation and submission. Another source of support, particularly for students enrolled in STEM PhD programs is a 2-credit hour course with didactic instruction on how to prepare research grant applications. In Fall 2021, the Graduate School sponsored the course GEO 5222 Grant Writing, taught by Drs. Steve Driese and Bill Hockaday (both of the Geosciences Department), who offered two sections of the course to 16 graduate students from the Departments of Geosciences, Biology, Environmental Science, and Physics. The primary course outcome is to develop a PhD dissertation proposal using the NSF research grant application as a model, and to apply (if eligible) to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). This year, 3 of the graduate students enrolled in the course have applied for the GRFP. Graduate students enrolled in GEO 5222 are also eligible to participate in the annual OVPR-sponsored Grant Writing Workshop. The proficiencies they gain in this course and through working with our Grant Writing Specialists will prepare them to be successful in a variety of post-graduate careers.
When our graduate students can do well as classroom instructors, when they can communicate well with colleagues both at Baylor and in the larger academic community, and when we can teach our students grant writing skills, we are doing our jobs to position them for success after graduation.